I became a better preacher once I realized that all oratory is theater. Paul Patton, theater professor at Spring Arbor University, took me aside one day and told me my chief role as a preacher was to “fill the space.”
What did he mean by that?
First, Paul told me I need to project my voice to every corner of the room. I had to enunciate my words, speak more clearly and more concisely, and plan sentences that could be spoken with authority. No more mumbling. No more shuffling through pages. No more burying my face in my notes. I had to command the stage and fill the aural space in every corner of the room.
Second, Paul suggested I imagine a giant beam of light coming out of my chest. Like Iron Man. Everywhere my chest pointed that light would shine. Paul told me I needed to “illuminate” as many people as possible.
“Filling the space” isn’t the only theatrical hack useful for preachers. In fact, I’ve learned several over the years.
1. Own your material. Know what you’re going to say inside and out so you can say it with conviction and passion.
2. Mean what you say. Every time you have to believe that it’s life or death that you say these things in these ways to these people.
3. Stay in the light. Get away from the shadows and make sure you’re always visible.
4. Stay open. Don’t close off your body posture to the audience. Don’t turn around and focus on a tiny portion of the room.
5. And, last but not least, stop talking when you run out of lines.